News

Palo Alto voters to decide on even-year elections

Council votes to let citizens decide on possible switch from odd to even years

Palo Alto voters will decide in November whether the city should switch to even-numbered years for local elections.

The City Council voted 5-4 Monday night to place a measure on the November ballot that would switch the city's elections from odd years to even years. Mayor Pat Burt, Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa and Councilmen Larry Klein and Greg Schmid dissented.

The proposal to switch from odd to even years was proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, who promoted the switch as a way to both save $200,000 every other year and to raise voter turnout.

"There's no question the voter turnout is better in even years," Kniss told the council Monday.

Klein argued that the city's tradition of having elections in odd years allows voters to focus on local elections and not be distracted by state and national issues. Burt said the council should vet the issue further before voting for it.

If the voters approve the switch, the current council members will have their terms extended by a year.

Scharff said most communities already have even-year elections and that Palo Alto should join them and, in doing so, raise its voter participation.

"We're saving money and increasing voter participation," Scharff said. "Seems to me those are two positive goals."

City staff estimates indicated savings from even-year elections would have a range but be less than the $200,000 estimate by Kniss. Some council members expressed concern expressed about potential extra costs to the Palo Alto Unified School District and Foothill-De Anza Community College District should they keep their elections in odd years.

Comments

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Posted by Who knows
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

While the idea of switching elections to even years has some appeal, I plan to vote against it as long as council members will have their terms extended by a year.
I also have to wonder about Liz Kniss' motives behind pushing this idea. I have long since figured out that Ms Kniss does not do anything that does not further her political goals. When she was on the council she was a big proponent of the eruv, that is until their was a backlash and she did a prompt about face and would not even bring the matter to a vote (i.e. she did not want to go on record voting one way or another). As a county supervisor, she was initially the puppet of Denice Dade (from Committee for the Green Foothills), sensing that environmental issues would be a good way to further her career. Of course now Ms Kniss career has stalled, our congresswoman has no plans to retire, so Ms Kniss cannot run against her (remember how she lashed out at the former Mountain View council member who initially planned to vote against her saying a woman should not challenge another woman for elected office). So maybe this is a new effort to somehow revive her dead end political career. Who knows.


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Posted by Vote-Early--And-Often
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

> Klein argued that the city's tradition of having elections in odd
> years allows voters to focus on local elections and not be distracted
> by state and national issues.

What a load of brown stuff. Most candidates refuse to provide any information about themselves (such as a resume), and it's very rare to find one that has ever read a budget, or has any idea about the financial problems facing the town (much less any of the overhanging levels of government that impinge on local government from time-to-time).

While shifting the year alignment might save the City a million every ten years, that's chump change compared to the money this City spends.

So .. what is Liz Kniss' angle here?

Given the low turnout (about 35% typically) for City Council elections, that means about 20% of Palo Alto is "ruling" the rest of us. Maybe increasing the participation and getting some addition voters on-board might not be such a bad idea.



Like this comment
Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

I have known and worked with Liz for forty years, and I disagree with the disparaging remarks about her by Who Knows. Liz is undoubtedly one of the most experienced and dedicated public officials that we have. She is definitely not a puppet! Her environmental credentials go back to the campaign to form the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 1970. She has done, and is doing, an amazing job as our County Supervisor, and is an excellent advocate for her constituents.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:26 am

Candidates will need much bigger campaign budgets to run in "even" number years, when they are competing for media space with state, and national election races.

In the last city council election, the candidates who won, spent around $20,000 - $30,000 to campaign, not counting the "volunteer" and supporting campaigns from special interest groups like unions.

This switch means that a council campaign may cost upward of $50,000, and that means special interests (like unions, etc) will have much more influence in determining who gets elected. This may not be for the good, as look at how the union supported candidates like Gail Price, Nancy Shepard, Sid Espinosa and Yia Weh Yeh have pretty much voted the union positions on pensions, etc.

I agree with "Vote-early" post, that most candidates try not to take any position, and they run a campaign based on personality & friends. It's only when they get into office and start voting does the electorate see where their positions are.

Liz Kniss's game is to support help the special interest groups by giving them more influence, and moving the "even" year election helps that happen by making campaigns that much more expensive.


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Posted by Who knows
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:27 am

Carroll--thanks for your opinion. As will all public servants, people will have differing opinions about her and her motives. I do remember her actions during the "eruv affair" and I think she acted in a cowardly manner, more concerned about her personal political aspirations rather than her constituents.


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Posted by Vote-Early--And-Often
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:40 am

> Liz is undoubtedly one of the most experienced and dedicated
> public officials that we have

If this is true, is there little reason to believe that self-government can succeed? Getting correct answers is better than being able to win elections. Kniss is great at "working the system", but has shown little understanding about setting a framework of "sustainable government" in place.

We will all be better off when she is out of government affairs.


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Posted by Still thinking
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

This is one I've been struggling with since I heard the debate last night. However, Common Sense has made some very good points. It's a good thing we don't have to vote on this until November because there is a lot to think about.

Will it even save the City enough money if we make the change? I think there needs to be other, more compelling, reasons. Got to think about this!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Who knows
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

"I agree with "Vote-early" post, that most candidates try not to take any position, and they run a campaign based on personality & friends."

You also have to remember that disagreements with other candidates is discouraged as this is considered a "personal attack" in the genteel nature of PA politics. All candidates talk about how wonderful PA is and how they will work to maintain our "quality of life".
It would be great for candidates to actually discuss/debate the issue so that we can see where they actually stand and it would be nice to be able to ask the candidates difficult questions. Naturally, the candidates avoid all this during the love fest that is known as the campaign for city council


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Isn't it presumptuous to give every sitting council member a 5-year term? No election for 3 years while the city is in crisis?


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I for one, do not want to give another year to the union supported stooges on the city council: Gail Price, Nancy Shepard, Yia Way Yeh & Sid Espinosa.

The city has a structural deficit and a $500 million dollar infrastructure backlog, and they can't even vote for the fiscal recommendation from the Santa Clara Grand Jury to eliminate binding arbitration. Instead, they follow their union masters, and vote down putting it on the ballot - don't they trust the citizens of Palo Alto to make their own decision?

And all 4 supported increasing taxes via the business license tax; all that would do is go for paying for more salary increases for the and the increasing pension costs of the union members. And how smart would more taxes be on businesses in the middle of the Great Recesssion?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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